How to handle golf’s
5 scariest shots
Ashley Cox, GolfTEC Manager of Educational Development, PGA Certified Professional
With Halloween just around the corner, it’s a great time to discuss the “scary” shots in golf. It’s not easy to pull the trigger over a shot when you have no idea what’s going to happen. Or maybe you do know what’s going to happen…which can make the shot that much scarier. In addition, how well you play these shots may determine whether you leave the course feeling good about your round or kicking yourself for letting one of your best rounds slip away. We’ve narrowed it down to five shots and how to handle each one so that you continue to play your best golf.
The short par putt is one of the most daunting shots a golfer can face. The key to making the putt, however, is to fully commit to the stroke. Many golfers miss these types of putts because they allow the putter to slow down through impact, which usually causes them to leave it short. They’ve committed to the line of the putt, but they lose speed because they’re too concerned with it. While some coaches say aim for the back of the hole and others say aim for the front of the hole, the most important thing is to pick an approach and stick with it. So, the next time you line up for a short par putt, make a confident, committed stroke. See the line, pick the line, trust the read, and knock it in!
For some golfers, the first tee shot in front of a group of people can be the equivalent of public speaking. They may become nervous, as they fear the rest of the group is judging their playing ability. Also, the first tee shot can set the tone for the entire round…hit a bad shot and you start to question your swing. The key to a successful first tee shot is to be confident in your ability. Pick a specific point to focus on – maybe it’s an item in the distance that’s on the line where you want to hit your ball. Doing so will eliminate any outside factors that may add pressure to the shot. Pick a spot, commit to the shot, be confident in your ability, and let it fly.
Water always plays with the mind of a golfer. Whether it is a tee shot or simply a carry from the fairway, golfers tend to freak out with the prospect of facing water. The key to hitting a shot over water is to mentally eliminate the water from your field of vision. You must trust in your ability and view the water as land. Be sure to pick enough club to clearly carry the water, pick an aiming point, and trust your swing. Remember, there is no water…it’s just dry land.
While the chip to set up a par putt should be one of the easier shots in the game, for most golfers it is not. The key to the short chip is to pick a spot where you want the ball to land. By taking the focus off of the hole and focusing on where you want the ball to land, you give yourself the best opportunity to get the ball close to the hole. Poor chips tend to be a result of trying to put the ball in the hole, rather than focusing on getting the ball close enough for a tap-in putt. A good way to practice chipping and pitching is to toss a few balls underhand to a target. This will train both the proper technique and the right amount of touch on shots around the green.
Downhill Bunker Shot
The downhill bunker shot is one of the toughest in the game. There are a couple of keys to successfully playing the downhill bunker shot. The biggest key, oddly enough, is to make sure to get the ball out of the bunker. One of the mistakes players make in the sand is not swinging hard enough. For the downhill bunker shot, it’s very easy for the club to slide under the ball; and the ball gets left in the bunker. Be sure to angle your feet, hips and shoulders to match the slope of the bunker. This will allow for the club to be swung on the proper plane to get the ball out of the bunker. Also a key when hitting out of the bunker, no matter what the lie, always accelerate the club through the hitting zone. Remember, the sand gives additional resistance, so it’s important to keep the club accelerating to get the ball out of the bunker.
As always, the best way to get better and more comfortable at something is to practice. Work with your GolfTEC Coach on the best practice methods to help take the fear out of these shots. It could be a great time to schedule a playing lesson with your Coach so that you can face these scary shots under the watchful eye of your Certified Personal Coach. Remember…your Coaches have faced these shots and they’ve learned how to handle their fears. Let them help you handle your fears too.